A talk with the Tucks

Ann Gill

Once upon a time, there was a man with a wife and two boys—Miles and Jesse—who moved from the west to settle in the east.  One day in a New Hampshire woods, everybody drank from a spring.
Unknowingly, the water that flowed provided them eternal life and it’s the key element in the story of the Tucks and their encounter with an adventurous young girl by the name of Winnie Foster.
When the 11-year-old ventures off into the woods she comes across a young looking man and from there the secret of the Tuck family’s eternal life unfolds and it will be told by an all-student cast from Coal City High School as the school’s theatre department presents  “Tuck Everlasting,” a musical based on the award-winning young adult novel penned by Natalie Babbitt.
Preston Johnson, a senior, is taking on the role of Angus Tuck, the patriarch of the family. This is his first lead role and although a bit nervous at this point, he’s looking forward to all the experience has to offer.
“I feel the smaller roles have helped build me up to bigger roles. I’ve learned so much over the last few years just watching,” said Johnson, who didn’t have a specific role in mind when he auditioned for the show back in November.
“I was just hoping to be a part of this,” he said.
Sophomore Riley Nevin went into auditions with hopes of earning a title role but in the end he would have been happy with any part.
“I just wanted to be a part of it,” Nevin said, noting he did get the role he really wanted and audiences will see him on stage this spring as Miles Tuck, the eldest of the Tuck boys.
As Nevin explains, his character has experienced a lot in his life including a significant loss and he uses his own experiences to help guide his delivery of the character.
“The fact that he’s lost something, I can connect to that with loosing some family members,” Nevin said, noting it also helps to have brothers at home to help develop that side of his character.
“Tuck Everlasting,” opened for previews on Broadway in March 2016, so it’s a relatively new musical.  The show was opened for licensing in 2018 and Coal City is one of less than a handful of schools in Illinois to secure the rights to present the show.
Until the announcement came out last fall that Coal City would be staging the show, Johnson was relatively unaware of it. But he set forth to listen to the soundtrack and found an on-line taping of the show and as he goes through the process of telling the story of the Tuck Family, he’s finding the meaning in each line he delivers.
“It’s such a powerful story. The point of this is to connect people, show family values and how wonderful life really is. I feel if we portray this story the right way, the audience will be able to connect it to their own lives,” Johnson said.
When the curtain closes, Johnson has a feeling there will be many that leave the theatre with tears in their eyes, a symbol of the power in the story that is “Tuck Everlasting.”
Bringing the characters to life always has it challenges, but Johnson and Nevin say it’s been a pretty simple task so far.
What he likes most about the show is the connectedness of the cast.
“It’s a small cast and everybody is really close and that allows you to work with people without the fear of being embarrassed and that allows you to grow more than with a big cast,” Johnson said.
The musical features a  32-member cast, 10 in named roles, an 11-member dance ensemble and a vocal ensemble of 11-strong.
According to everyone involved, the cast is working well together and has shown great dedication to the production.
So what makes a good stage partner? Nevin said it’s all about chemistry and this group has that, as they have all worked together on school and community productions.
“We’re a big family,” Nevin said.
Part of that family is senior Sydney Carlos who takes the stage as this production’s Mae Tuck, wife of Angus and mother to Miles and Jesse, to be played by Gavyn Williams.
It’s the friendships she’s developed and the lessons learned through theatre that keep Carlos involved in the program.
She admits to not being a, “really big musical fan.” Unlike many of her fellow cast mates, Carlos doesn’t enjoy watching others perform on stage, but she does relish in the joy it brings to her teenage life.
“Just being here knowing everyone is in the same place, that we’ve developed a bond and we’ve created this theatrical family,” Carlos said.
“I think the biggest thing the theatre has taught me is to know it’s OK to try new things. It’s been a great distraction because you can come out here and pretend to be someone else, but you are still truly yourself, and  it teaches you how to handle many things at one time,” Carlos said.
Johnson believes “Tuck Everlasting,” has the power to teach its audience a lot about life, living life that is.
“I hope teenagers and young adults who come out to the show really appreciate everything their parents have done to allow them to experience what they have in their lives. I think a lot of times we take for granted what our parents do for us because we don’t see everything they do. But if they are able to put themselves in the shoes that our family is in this show, they really will understand that it’s important to love those around you,” Johnson said.
The Tuck family joins their fellow cast members in inviting the community to take in the beautiful story that is “Tuck Everlasting.”
“Everyone who sees this show will enjoy it,” Nevin said.
Reserved seat tickets to see Tuck are available at cctuck.weebly.com. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.    
Shows are set for Thursday, March 7; Friday, March 8; Saturday, March 9; Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 10 and 17 in the Coal City Performing Arts Center.